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Likes, Gripes & Theories: The Last Jedi

Well this post is long overdue. I’ve seen the movie 8 times in the theater now, and I find myself mulling over parts of it at any given point during the day. Will probably try to see it twice more before it leaves theaters.

Before I go any further, the obligatory spoiler warning. If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, consider yourself warned… ***SPOILERS***

Things I loved about TLJ:
• THAT REN/REY TEAMUP!!!!!!! This was on my wish list for things to see, and it surprised the heck out of me that it happened. And I’m gonna be honest, I really wanted her to join him (#Reylo sorry not sorry)
• All of the Ren-Rey Force connection scenes
• Ren was very ROTS Anakin-esque in this; I loved Driver’s balance of evil and vulnerable
• Poe’s “happy beeps” and Hux call scene in the opening
• Loved the opening space battle in general, what a great opening!
• Finn walking around with water spouting out of his bacta suit was fun
• Leia and Poe’s exchange about jumping in the X-Wing and blowing stuff up
• The R2 Leia transmission aboard the falcon <sniff sniff>
• Rey thinking she was feeling the Force when it was Luke holding some foliage*
• The way the electricity glinted off of Phasma’s armor as she faced off against Finn; we saw it all over the trailers and it was every bit as beautiful as expected in the film
• Everyone treating 3PO the way a lot of us feel, especially Poe telling him to shut up
• Could Leia have looked more gorgeous (even if it was more than a little photoshopped) standing at the big door on Crait?!
• Crait itself was visually stunning
• I need a crystal fox in my life
• Had last-minute concerns going into it, but I remain pro-porg
• I didn’t think I’d care for Rose but I really enjoyed the addition of her character—and if you’re not following Kelly Marie Tran on instagram, you need to
• Have I mentioned how much I loved the Rey-Ren dynamic?!
• I like that Ren doesn’t report to anyone now
• The Luke/Leia reunion was so touching and reminiscent of their chat in ROTJ
Luke seeing a sort of binary sunset before his death hit me in the feels
• Poe’s “what the hell?” line when his foot went through the Crait ski ship (he’s got much better comedic timing than I would’ve thought)

• I really appreciate how unpredictable the majority of the movie was; aforementioned teamup, Yoda’s appearance and Luke’s death were all unexpected for me

*Even though I personally enjoyed the funny bits and one-liners, some of the humor seemed a little out of character for Luke; it felt like they were writing some of the dialogue for Mark Hamill not for Luke Skywalker.


Things I didn’t love about TLJ:
• Mixed bag on the Yoda scene, visually; he looked right when the burning temple was behind him but other shots just looked wrong*
• Leia’s hokey return to the ship—visually it looked cheesy, and I don’t love that our first time witnessing Leia actively use the Force was to save herself
• I thought it would have been more powerful to have Leia and Holdo switch places as the one to go down with the ship
• I know it was planned before the fact, but seeing Leia injured and unconscious for so much of the film hurt my heart
• We now wait 2 more years to find out how they resolve the “Leia Lives” puzzle
• Snoke: 1) I was holding onto hope that he was Plagueis for added impact to both PT and OT; 2) Loved how Kylo tricked him and took him down, but it sure seemed easy to polish off someone so allegedly wise and powerful; 3) his throne room looked like they forgot to finish decorating
• Canto Bight sequence: felt very prequel-esque, which was fine as a sort of bridge for the trilogies, but it ended up being a waste of time overall with regards to propelling the plot, felt shoehorned with other more important goings-on and just wasn’t particularly well done (though I generally loved Rose and Finn during the whole sequence)
• Rey’s parentage (assuming it’s true): yeah, it’s cool that people who don’t come from familiar backgrounds can be strong with the Force, it just seems to lessen the impact of the Force visions from TFA
• Rey’s foray to the dark side of the island was a little blah…except that it set up the scene of her confiding in Kylo (which I LOVED)
• Phasma died like a chump, only slightly better than the trash compactor. Another waste of an awesome-looking villain (I’m looking at you, Darth Maul)
• BB-8 driving an AT-ST… didn’t hate it but meh
• Holdo felt generally unnecessary except to create conflict for Poe—see note above regarding her role being switched with Leia
• Luke milking the animal on Ahch-To was just really uncomfortable to watch

*I have come to the conclusion that either we’ve grown too savvy as a collective audience or I might expect too much from CG on Star Wars. It wasn’t anywhere near Justice League CG levels of bad but even when it is just ever so slightly off now it sticks out like a sore thumb.


Outstanding questions about TLJ:
• I initially wondered if it was Rey or Yoda who put the ancient Jedi texts on the Falcon… I have since decided it was Rey since you see her closing the drawer before she jumps in her personal jet pod to go meet Ren for some kissyface tension (have I mentioned how much I LOVED their teamup?!)
• How is “Leia Lives” resolved? Off-screen death set between movies doesn’t seem good enough for her
• It took until my 8th viewing to notice that the Falcon’s dish got knocked off again on Crait. We will see it rectangular in Ep. 9, or will it be back to the classic dish?
• Does the kid at the end play into Johnson’s new non-Skywalker trilogy or is he just symbolizing the spark of hope and/or that you can be a nobody like Rey and be strong in the Force? If we’re being honest, I hope he and his friends aren’t part of the end game here. They all seemed a little cartoony, and I’m not too keen on the idea of another little boy who yells “yahoo!”
• Speaking of Rey-Nobody… were her parents really nobodies or was Ren lying to manipulate her? I think he was legitimately honest and vulnerable with her but still exploited that weakness. And, more importantly, I think there’s a possibility that Snoke could have planted that vision for him to believe and try to leverage against her./
• Did Snoke really create the Force bond between them? I think the answer to this is a resounding ‘no’ and that he rather realized what was happening and took credit for it so they would believe he was as powerful as he claimed
• So who was Snoke? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter anymore, I guess and it’s low on my list of questions for a reason. I was taken aback, though, at how similar his cadence and diction reflected that of Palpatine. Coincidence?

What say you? Did you love The Last Jedi, hate it, feel conflicted? Let’s chat in the comments!


Gripes, Likes & Theories: Rogue One

If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, consider yourself warned… ***SPOILERS***

Pardon the stream-of-consciousness post; it may get a bit messy. I’ve seen Rogue One five (yes, 5!) times in the theater now. The latest was on my 13th wedding anniversary (yes, 13th!), which happened to be the same sad day that our favorite Princess passed away.

Though I never had the honor of meeting her, Carrie Fisher always felt like a friend. It never occurred to me as a child that she was old enough to be my mom—she was Princess Leia, and she was my friend. As an adult, of course I appreciate the many facets of her career, advocacy and person. Her biting sarcasm and quick wit balanced with sincerity, something I will always admire. Watching Rogue One hours after learning of her death was harrowing (ironically, my 4th viewing was just hours before her heart attack). The public display of emotion got a bit uglier than I had hoped, what with the heaving shoulders and snot snorting. On the bright side, the Vader bit is impressive even with tear-blurred vision.

Things I loved about R1:

Literally everything in the last hour or so of the film. The battle, the tragic ends*, VADER. Seriously, when the lightsaber illuminates Vader in that dark corridor…ugh, I love it all so hard. That scene is everything I’ve ever wanted from Vader. And it all makes me cry. A. LOT.

*yes, even my Imperial sympathizing heart hurt over that. That said, this should lay to rest rumors of Jyn being Rey’s mom.

For me, the part in which the film really starts feeling like a Star Wars story is as they’re escaping Jedha. From there, I find myself far more engaged in the plot and connecting more with the characters. I really thought at least one of our heroes would make it out, but this ending was much better from an urgency and storytelling angle. That last scene with Jyn and Cassian is soul-crushing in the best way possible. Their chemistry was a brilliant mix of platonic and maybe-could’ve-been-more. I LOVE Cassian! I thought he was as well written as he was acted, which is impressive for a complex character. I would be compelled to watch anything with Diego Luna in it now. Really enjoyed Donnie Yen’s performance as well.

I so appreciate how Gareth Edwards worked it into a piece that’s so layered and nuanced that it feels like a sort of love note to Star Wars. The many thoughtful, lovely references in this feel less nostalgia-gimmicky than TFA (which I also loved but still). It’s a beautiful bridge between the prequels and original trilogy that makes both Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope better.

I think subsequent viewings really do make a big difference for this movie since there just so much to absorb. The first time around, I was delighted to see the original Red Leader and Gold Leader (if you haven’t seen how they made that happen, read this)…though I’m not sure I needed to know how/why Luke inherited the Red Five call sign. I also got a kick out of the complete-fanservice-but-still-fun cameos by Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba. Took me until the third viewing to finally notice the blue milk in Galen & Lyra Erso’s hovel. I think the CG is also less bothersome after the initial shock. Is ‘shock’ the right word? Whatever.

Except for the vaguely cartoonish mouth movements, I thought the CG on Tarkin & Leia was surprisingly good. My only complaint is that there was perhaps too much full-face Tarkin; it took away the “is it really him?” intrigue and turned it into “oh look, CG!”

K2-SO is probably my favorite droid now (he and BB-8 blow the originals out of the water for me). Not only is K2-SO better than C-3PO, but Alan Tudyk knocks the socks off of Anthony Daniels.

Things I didn’t love about R1:
Saw Gerrera/Forest Whitaker. His existence beyond rescuing Jyn as a child seemed overly contrived and almost entirely unnecessary. Every scene that he’s in makes me eye-roll, and I wasn’t sad when he ‘sacrificed’ himself to the imploding planet. In fact, I would have been glad that he bit it, except that I was eye-rolling so hard from his over-the-top acting that it really just annoyed me. Maybe part of the reason I didn’t like him was the way the character was written, but Whitaker’s melodramatic delivery of the lines didn’t help. His “save the dream” line was arguably the worst in the movie, too—even worse than Vader’s pun about choking on aspirations. And the “truth monster” was just awful. That was definitely the parallel to the rathtars in TFA that should’ve found the cutting room floor.

The score. I will say my frustration with this has diminished a bit with each additional screening. My understanding is that Giacchino had very little time to compose, and for that I am in awe with how relatively good it is. Nevertheless, it lacked a lot of the emotional weight of a John Williams score. It felt particularly lackluster in the title sequence after the prologue.

Speaking of the title sequence, I really missed the opening scroll and classic Star Wars theme. I do understand that Lucasfilm is trying to make it clear that these are not Skywalker-centric stories but I’m not sure how chopping out the expository scroll and iconic strains are supposed to do that.

R2-D2/C-3PO cameo. I guess I didn’t really dislike this, per say, but I think that scene felt really shoehorned on Yavin. Had we seen them on the Tantive cruiser, it would’ve made (more) sense. It seems Threepio has worn out his welcome with me.

Outstanding questions about R1:
Do Death Troopers speak a different language, or were they just suffering from Bane unintelligible syndrome? Friends have speculated they utilize a spy-code that scrambles their transmissions outside of their helmets. I’ll buy that, but I also would’ve liked to hear them speak actual words instead of garbled zombie sounds.

Just how did Evazan & Ponda get off Jedha so we could eventually meet them at the cantina? I assume they were already headed to their departing ship.

Also, why didn’t they show the Mustafar planet ‘tag’ like all of the other planets? Probably just trying to surprise everybody with Vader’s lair but the inconsistency bugged me ever so slightly. Regarding Mustafar, I LOVED seeing Vader’s castle and half expected it to be Hayden Christensen’s head in the bacta tank!

During Jyn’s flashback aboard the U-Wing, we saw her family enjoying drinks with Krennic. Did the view out the apartment windows look like Coruscant to anybody else? Started reading the “Catalyst” novel today and it mentions Galen & Lyra marrying on Coruscant so I think we can assume it was supposed to be.

I want to know more about the relationship between Krennic and Tarkin—I’m currently reading “Catalyst” and hoping to find out more about this. It seems a nice parallel to the dynamic of Kylo Ren and Hux in TFA; almost like a sibling rivalry.

And I guess that about sums it up for the moment…largely because my lunch break is over and I have to get back to work. What say you? Did you love Rogue One, hate it, feel conflicted? Let’s chat in the comments!

Gripes, Likes & Theories: Batman v Superman

Now that the film is in wide release, I can ignore the advance-screening plea from Zack Snyder not to spoil anything. So be warned, SPOILERS FOLLOW.

As I mentioned before, I went into BvS with super low expectations and liked it pretty well. For me it boiled down to something like Thor: Dark World or Avengers: AoU—not bad to watch once or twice but generally lackluster and forgettable. I also didn’t find it as grim and gritty as everyone is complaining. I mean, yeah, it’s dark but no more than roughly half of everything else that’s come out in cinema over the last decade, including the Nolan trilogy that everyone seems to love (I don’t find it holds up as much more than “meh”).

Biggest misses for me:
1) Batman just gave up his fight because Superman’s mom happened to have the same name?! For the love of Martha, that was some seriously weak writing.
2) Superman’s death lacked ‘gravity’—I don’t think anyone in our screening believed for one minute that he would stay dead. Moreover, I don’t think anyone would have bought into it even had we not all experienced the media hoopla that surrounded the event when it happened in the comics back in the early ’90s. It felt so very emotionally empty and not the least bit cliffhanger-y, which I found incredibly disappointing.
2b) Speaking of media hoopla…SO. MANY. CAMEOS. (I know I already mentioned this before, but it really bothered me.)
3) Lex creating Doomsday inside the Kryptonian ship. I thought it was clever that he cut off Zod’s fingerprints to gain access but otherwise hated the entire scene.
3b) Doomsday was like a bad mashup of Hulk, every Spider-Man movie villain and Hunger Games mutts.
4) Teasers for Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg lacked excitement and depth.
5) Amy Adams. Always Amy Adams.
6) Underutilized Wonder Woman.

I’ll reiterate that I’m genuinely excited for the standalone WW movie now. I wish she hadn’t looked so much like part of the Kardashian klan but Gadot played the fight scenes like she could be a legitimately strong warrior. Expectations shattered.

Still, my favorite part of the movie was spotting TK-421 on Lex Luthor’s prison uniform.

ALSO, I have a BvS/Walking Dead fan theory!
Maggie is Bruce Wayne’s mom, which means that TWD clearly happened in the past…and Maggie either cheated on Glenn or lost that baby and had another later with Mr. Wayne. The “metahumans” are clearly an evolutionary result of surviving the zombie apocalypse. Tell me your mind isn’t blown right now.


She Lives! (aka Batman v Superman Happened so I’m Blogging)

I’m still here, believe it or not! Since last post, I’ve made a geeky pilgrimage to San Francisco (pics and details coming soon, I promise), seen TFA a few more times—totaled 8 at the theater—and worked like a fool. The working part is more exhausting than awesome but it helps pay for toys, and we all know you can never have too many toys.

After posting some pics of myself as a little Superman-loving lass, I won tickets to last night’s advance screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Side note: If I’m ever tasked with writing something that requires a certain character count, I will be sure to make this film the topic because writing the title alone should satisfy most requirements.

“So how was it?” you ask. Weeeeeelllll…
As someone who loved Man of Steel, I liked it fairly well. There are a couple of really good moments that are balanced by some really cringe-worthy ones, which are all outnumbered by a lot of “just a’ight.”

I’m not in the business of spoilers, and not just because there was a Zack Snyder video plea before the movie started, so I won’t give away any secrets. Except that Batman’s parents die. Oops, surprise!

Okay, one teeny-tiny, not-really spoiler: there’s a fun Star Wars Easter egg. I spotted it straight away and leaned over in the middle of the movie to quote a relevant line. I suspect a lot of fans will pick up on it; comment below if you want a hint.

I digress.

People who have already decided to hate Affleck as Batman won’t be swayed, though I thought he was a suitable host for a character who wasn’t supposed to be altogether likable in this story. His acting wasn’t especially nuanced, though I’m not sure whether that was due to him or the writing. He’s easily as good as, if not better than, either Kilmer or Clooney.

Wonder Woman was not on the list of things I excitedly anticipated for this film, particularly after I learned of Gal Gadot’s casting. I was, to that end, pleasantly surprised! The characterization is far more interesting—and less exploitative—than I expected. I might actually kinda sorta be looking forward to her standalone film now <gasp!>.

Surprisingly, the most eye-rolls of the night came not with Jesse Eisenberg but Amy Adams. Sure, Eisenberg was the same smarmy guy he is in every role (and maybe in real life?), but you saw that one coming from a mile away.
I am decidedly not a fan of Adams’ interpretation of Lois Lane, as you might remember from my reviews of Man of Steel. While she and Henry Cavill demonstrated a bit better chemistry this time around, particularly at the beginning of the film, I can’t help but see her as an annoying hindrance. Maybe that, too, is a consequence of the character more than the actor…it’s not like Margot Kidder wasn’t tiresome…or maybe it would be less frustrating with someone else filling the role. It seems we’ll never know.

To be fair, Adams is unseated by Doomsday as my least favorite character in this movie. That’s not saying much, is it?!

If you loathed the Sears and iHop tie-ins from Man of Steel, be prepared for media personality overload on this one. I understand that Snyder et al. are trying to make us believe that Superman’s universe is one in the same with ours. For me, showing endless cameos of recognizable pundits had the opposite effect, ripping me out of my suspension of disbelief.

Stylistically, this is a pretty slick movie. The fight scenes, in particular, have a more comic-book feel than did Man of Steel; I actually felt like it veered into Amazing Spider-Man territory at times. That’s not a complaint, somehow. There are, however, a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences that tend to feel disjointed. The one thing that tied everything together was Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score with themes from Man of Steel beautifully woven throughout. I’ve grown to appreciate the former as one of the better contemporary theatrical scores and this built on it in intriguing ways. Along with the hopeful and heart-wrenching strains, there was an inescapable undercurrent of tension and conflict. Magnifique!

Overall, this girl feels that Batman v Superman lands squarely in the middle of the pack for modern superhero flicks. It’s generally enjoyable if forgettable, but worth seeing on the big screen if you’re at all inclined to see it.




Gripes, Likes & Theories: The Force Awakens

My last post was sentimental, so here’s the nitty gritty. SPOILERS FOLLOW. Proceed at your own risk. And for the love of Luke, go see the movie already!

First things first: I am historically an Imperial Apologist and Sith Sympathizer, but I’ll be danged if Rey, Finn and BB-8 (and to a lesser extent Poe) aren’t wooing me over to the good side. Like Kylo Ren, I’m being torn apart, tempted by the light.
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are so darn charming! And BB-8—contrary to my initial thoughts from way back in November 2014 when the very first teaser trailer released—is utterly adorable. I hate that I love them so much.

Oh, and I 100% support the idea of Rey being Luke’s daughter. At this point, I will be terribly disappointed if she isn’t. Luke’s lightsaber (from his father before him) calls to her. She’s a fine pilot with mechanical aptitude. She beckons the saber to her during the snowy duel at Starkiller Base, to the strains of the Luke/Jedi theme music, which made me openly weep. R2-D2 clearly reactivates when she comes on the Resistance base [yes, I know JJ said it was because BB-8 woke him up, but he also said that Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely was not Khan so I don’t believe anything he says that could potentially reveal a spoiler]. And, most importantly, Luke himself gets a little bleary-eyed when he sees her at the end*. Though I do have a love/hate with that ending. I wish the movie was more self-contained rather than a near-literal cliffhanger ending. I do, however, love that we didn’t actually see Luke until the end. So many feels!

*I hypothesize he thought her dead along with his wife and the rest of his Jedi academy. My dearest thinks that Kylo Ren (Rey’s cousin) spared her life and dropped her off on Jakku. I’ll add to his theory and suggest there was probably some sort of Force memory-wipe involved such that she doesn’t remember him.

As for Kylo Ren, I was pleasantly surprised with him. The physical manifestations of his instability with regards to the janky lightsaber and temper tantrums…brilliant! I also love that he’s struggling to fully embrace the Dark Side; it makes him so much more dimensional than your everyday villain. Do wish he would’ve kept his helmet on longer—a big reveal on the bridge with Han would’ve been a nice touch. And holy tauntauns, I want his hair!

Speaking of the son of Solo, I’m curious what you good people think about a particular line when he’s interrogating Rey: “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too.” Adam Driver delivers it in a very nuanced, compelling way and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. In fact, I think that entire scene works very well, save for the quasi-rapey “I can take whatever I want” bit.

Apart from Kylo Ren, I was rather disappointed with the First Order. I had HUGE love for Captain Phasma going into this, and I left feeling deflated. I don’t buy that the character would’ve just complied with Finn/Han/Chewie’s demands without putting up a fight [this is the part of the show where people write in the comments about how she had an angry Wookiee with a crossbow staring her down].

They sibling-rivalry dynamic between Hux and Kylo Ren leaves me wanting more information about the structure of the First Order. Did they both join ranks about the same time? It seems, of course, that Supreme Leader Snoke is in the position once occupied by Emperor Palpatine but we know nothing else about him. I side with those who think Supreme Leader Snoke is really Darth Plagueis. In fact, I’ll be rather disappointed if we don’t learn that he cheated death at the hands of Palpatine then pulled all of the subsequent puppet strings.

With regards to storytelling, it didn’t hit all of the beats I expected or hoped. The fact that it parallels Episode IV doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that it feels like the lazy version of it. Whereas plans were carefully stolen—huzzah, Rogue One!—and analyzed to identify the first Death Star’s weakness, Starkiller Base was surveyed for just a couple of minutes and then off they went. It all felt overly contrived. Moreover, the destruction of the Republic planets had no emotional weight, as we knew nothing of them. At least we felt Leia’s emotion when Alderaan bit the dust.

I was also a little bummed that the John Williams score didn’t hold more stirring treasures than it did. Rey’s theme stands apart, as does Kylo Ren’s, but it’s otherwise pretty forgettable. And while I initially hated the song from Maz Kanata’s watering hole (composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda), I was bummed when it didn’t show up on the soundtrack. It has grown on me in ways I would rather pretend didn’t exist.

Maz Kanata herself wins a spot on my “likes” list for the film. During the course of production, we were told only that the lovely Lupita Nyong’o was performing a motion-capture creature; I sensed a disturbance in the force. When rumored concept art surfaced, I was sure it was bad news. When the movie released, it was as if the skies opened and we were granted a gift. Maz is wonderful! She’s one of the better CG characters I can recall seeing, matching up to the likes of Groot or Rocket Raccoon. To top it off, her personality is affable and her wisdom hearkens back to the Yoda of yesteryear rather than the obnoxious prequel Yoda.

Something wholly unrelated that bothered me ever so slightly is Finn’s status within the Stormtrooper ranks. At the beginning of the film, we’re lead to believe the troops on Jakku are an elite squad. Later, however, Finn says that he worked in sanitation and defected on his first mission. Doesn’t add up.

The opening scene between Poe and Max Von Sydow felt like a missed opportunity, too. Title crawl reference an old ally, so I assumed it would be someone we recognized (if only by name). Alas, just a random old guy. Of all places, that felt like a good time to throw in some fan service.

Another missed opportunity…in fact, one that I believe should have been wholly scrapped, was the Han scene with the Guavian Death Squad, Kanjiklub and rathtars. It was so obvious it had been considerably chopped down for time that it should’ve just gone away altogether. It was the one scene where I felt Harrison Ford didn’t deliver, and I can’t say I blame him since it was so silly. The only redeeming moment was Rey closing the bay doors on the monster that held Finn and then her response of “that was lucky” when he told her about the apparent miracle. Okay, the moment where Chewie agreed that Han had let them down on more than one occasion was pretty fun, too.

Chewie was a far better addition to this film than any prior. In fact, this was probably the first time I felt any real affinity for him [ducks to avoid flying bottles and tomatoes]. The “You must be very brave” scene with the Resistance-base medic checking his arm cracked me up. The dejarik/chess game felt a bit forced (ha!), though I did dig Chewie’s reaction to it. I also enjoyed seeing the crossbow get some love. And the way he hugged Leia…awwwww.

Dear, dear Leia. Carrie Fisher is a galactic gem, and I was glad to see her back in the sass. Her role in the film, though, felt like it was written a bit flat. And that “fashionable gas-station attendant” outfit, oy! I wouldn’t trade her for all of the Meryl Streeps in the world, though.

So I guess that kind of sums up my thought process…though there are roughly a billion other opinions and related musings that I haven’t managed to dig out of my brain yet. What say you? Comment below & let’s discuss!